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07 • 28 • 2022

The Senate’s Pendulum Swings Toward Climate Action

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

In a sudden change of events, the Senate has decided to move climate legislation forward. The new legislation “the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” will make a historic investment in climate action that is stated to help reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030. This is critical considering emissions reduction is the most important action we can take to protect our ocean and coasts from the climate crisis. While it also includes unfortunate tradeoffs, Surfrider is encouraged by the provisions that include investments in climate action.

The legislation contains two important climate measures: significant investments for climate justice and coastal resiliency. Climate fueled extreme weather disasters have cost the US $750 billion over the past 5 years. The path of these extreme weather events does not affect everyone equally. As we have seen, disadvantaged and BIPOC communities often bear the brunt of the climate crisis. Surfrider is appreciative this bill is stated to assist disadvantaged communities and include measures to ensure tribal nations will receive funds to protect their sacred lands from climate impacts.

For years, Surfrider has been advocating for billions of dollars to advance coastal resiliency and protect blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grass and salt marshes. We are thrilled this legislation carves out $2.6 billion in coastal resilience that will help protect coastal communities from extreme weather and sea level rise, and restore habitats that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.  

While elements of this legislation are truly groundbreaking, the bill unfortunately contains concerning offshore drilling provisions that will slow our transition away from fossil fuels and place an unfair burden on Gulf of Mexico and Alaska communities. The bill proposes to offer over 180 million acres for oil and gas leasing and sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet in Alaska and mandates 1.7 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico be reinstated for offshore oil and gas production, despite a District Court ruling the lease is inadequate under important environmental laws. The bill also ties offshore wind leasing to annual offshore oil and gas leasing requirements for the next 10 years by requiring oil and gas lease sales of at least 60 million acres in the year preceding any future offshore wind leasing. 

Despite some of the unfortunate provisions of the bill, Surfrider is hopeful the Biden Administration will implement Executive Orders that will soften the blow and put forward meaningful measures to protect our ocean and coasts from the climate crisis. That is precisely why Surfirder has been imploring the Biden Administration for years to take bold climate action. Not only did Surfrider meet directly with the Biden Administration during our Coastal Recreation Hill Day, but we are part of a federal coalition that recently provided substantive recommendations to President Biden urging him to strengthen coastal resilience efforts. In addition, Surfrider set up an action alert for our supporters to contact President Biden and demand bold climate action that will protect our coastal communities and playgrounds from the climate crisis. 

Again, while there are some unfortunate provisions in the bill, the swinging of the senate’s pendulum toward climate action is very exciting–especially considering the bill languished for nearly a year, and at one point was completely off the table. Therefore, Surfrider is encouraged by this milestone and will relentlessly continue our work to protect our coastal communities, precious beaches, and the vitality of our ocean from the climate crisis.